Wedge installed as Mariners’ new manager with goal of building from ground up
SEATTLE – Eric Wedge, who helped build the Cleveland Indians from an also-ran to a division winner in Cleveland, was introduced by general manager Jack Zduriencik as the new manager in Seattle Tuesday, and his mission will be very much the same.
“I think they are further along here with some of the things Jack has done behind the scenes,’’ Wedge said. “They’re further down the road here than where we started in ’03. So that is encouraging.
“As you maneuver and you move and shake down the road and have to make these decisions and put this puzzle together, that’s the fun part. I’m looking forward to that. We’ve got some pieces here, and it’s our job to continue to develop these pieces and go out and see what we can do beyond that.’’
The two players Wedge singled out initially were starting pitcher Felix Hernandez and right fielder Ichiro Suzuki.
“I’m obviously a big believer in starting pitching and all that that means,’’ he said. “I’ve been around a few special starting pitchers in the past, and you have one here in Felix, one of the best in the game. If you are going to start, you have to start there.
“If you look at the consistency of Ichiro, arguable the most consistent hitter in the history of the game, if not one of the most of the consistent hitters, you know what you can count on. Jack has done a great job in the short term. We are going to blend all this together.’’
Looking around baseball, there are plenty of outsiders who see the addition of Wedge, who finished first once, second once and twice won 90 games in seven years with the Indians, as a plus.
Former Seattle starting pitcher Cliff Lee, who is leading Texas against New York in the American League Championship Series, was once sent down to the minor leagues and was sent to Triple-A Buffalo by Wedge in the middle of what was for Lee a disastrous 5-8, 6.29 2007 season with the Indians.
Lee could be expected to harbor a grudge, but given that Lee found his game during his eight starts at Buffalo and has come back to be one of the best pitchers in the game, including winning the 2008 Cy Young Award, the left-hander is solidly in Wedge’s camp.
“I think they’ve got a very good manager in Eric Wedge,’’ Lee said. Lee pitched for the Mariners up until a July trade to the Rangers. “He’s got good makeup and a great knowledge of the game.
“Guys like playing for him. I liked playing for him.’’
There is a suggestion that Wedge is intense to the point of abstraction, and that intensity is seen by his players and coaches, not so much by the media and the fans.
“He is intense, and I think that’s a good trait to have in a manager,’’ Lee said. “It projects out. He has high expectations of his players, and I think most players need those kinds of expectations.’’
Texas skipper Ron Washington, who has managed against Wedge for years, said the Mariners “are making a really good choice.’’
“He built that team in Cleveland up from a group of kids to a real contender,’’ Washington said admiringly. “He’s great with kids, and that’s the kind of team he’s going to have in Seattle to start with.
“And don’t forget that he was a catcher he played. Catchers have to see the whole game when they play, and that translates well if they become managers. He’s a solid baseball guy and a good person.’’
Yankee reliever Kerry Wood is another Wedge supporter.
“He’s a very good guy and a very good manager,’’ Wood said. He was the closer with the Indians a year ago when Wedge was winding down his seven-year stint in Cleveland. “He’s got great expectations for his players, and he does everything he can to get the best out of them.
“He respects the game and wants everyone else to respect it, too.’’